Emmett Ashford

July 29, 2009

A big congratulations to Joe Gordon, Rickey, and Jim Rice on becoming Hall of Famers.

Here’s an interesting LA Times article on the man who broke the umpiring color barrier. Emmett Ashford didn’t just break the barrier, he broke it with flair.

Apparently he wore french cuffs, gleaming cuff links, and supremely polished shoes. His ball/strike and out calls were pure theater. Check out this photo and you’ll get the idea.

The man who broke the umpiring color barrier with style, Emmett Ashford.

The man who broke the umpiring color barrier with style, Emmett Ashford.

Mr. Ashford spend 15 years in the minor leagues, 12 of them in the Pacific Coast League. He broke into the big leagues in 1965 at the age of 51 and called it quits after umpiring the 1970 World Series.

I had to laugh when I read this part of the article… During games, he was accurate and courteous. Once, when a 3-and-0 count turned into a walk, Ashford told the batter, “That, sir, is a ball, and you may now proceed in the general direction of first base.”

How'd you like to get rung up Ashford? Eat your heart out Leslie Nielsen.

How'd you like to get rung up by Mr. Ashford? Eat your heart out Leslie Nielsen.

Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun.

Leslie Nielsen in the Naked Gun.

Geez, umpires get yelled at anyway…can you imagine how much abuse Emmett Ashford must have endured as the first black umpire? And to do it with that much style and grace…awesome.  I would have loved to have met you Mr. Ashford or caught a game in front of you.

If I had a vote, I’d put you in the Hall of Fame right now.

Wow...that about sums it up.

Wow...that about sums it up.

4 Responses to “Emmett Ashford”

  1. Brad T. says:

    Thanks for pointing me to that article, I had not heard of him before. I can understand why they don’t want to deal with this when so many umpires who were in the league for decades haven’t made it into the Hall of Fame. But, it clearly is a unique situation and it seems like he was a sufficiently important person in the history of baseball to make the Hall of Fame.

  2. Keith McCrary says:

    Thank you, Brent, for this info. We whities often forget the struggles of black sport figures, especially those behind the scenes, as in behind the catcher. It also reminded me of a black traffic cop in San Francisco in the ’60’s and 70’s, who was an amazing dancer directing cars with flamboyant gestures. What a treat.
    I am glad to hear that Ashford made it to the World Series.

    By the way, I bought your book and sent it to the son of a nephew who is a Little League catcher in Kalispell, Montana. I’m sure it will be helpful.

    I continue to enjoy your “Tips.” The one on the weather could apply to much more than baseball. Thanks.

    Your friend, Keith

    P.S. The time you took me to an Angels game remains a highlight in my baseball memories. Did I tell you that I told my Episcopal priest about it when I returned to Maui? I told her I had an epiphany where I saw some twenty or more angels on this green field. When she (yes, Rev. Heather Mueller) began to look at me with awe and wonder, I mentioned that they were all wearing red baseball caps; and she got it and punched me in the shoulder.

  3. Bob Thompson says:

    Great article. I’ve been a MLB fan for 45 years. I remember seeing Emmett Ashford call many games at Yankee Stadium during the 60s but didn’t realize he was only in the majors for about 6 – 7 years. He and Yankee manager, Ralph Houk, had some “colorful discussions” during those days with jaws yapping and heads bobbing…great fun!
    Had the pleasure of meeting him after a game and he was extremely friendly and patient with a gaggle of kids, had a big smile and I still have his autograph.

  4. Brent Mayne says:

    Glad you liked it Bob…put me in your will for that autograph!

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